Pope Francis was moved to embrace a tearful abandoned girl at a university in Manila after she asked why God allows children to become prostitutes.
Glyzelle Palomar wept as she asked the Pope: “Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.”
The pontiff, cementing his reputation as a champion of the poor and oppressed, took the 12-year-old in his arms to comfort her.
He was so touched by the girl’s appeal that he abandoned his pre-prepared speech in English and instead responded to the child in Spanish, his native language.
Visibly moved, the Pope said: “She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears.”
Calling on people to show compassion for the marginalised, he continued: “I invite each one of you to ask yourselves, 'Have I learned how to weep, how to cry when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave'?”
The girl had been abandoned before being sheltered by a church-run community and was once homeless. She had been welcoming the Pope to the university, but broke down as she asked her emotional question.
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
The religious leader was speaking at an event at a Catholic university in the Philippines’ capital, where 30,000 people had crowded to see Francis.
Later, he said mass in Rizal Park, at the end of a seven day tour of Asia, where officials estimated more than 3,000,000 were in attendance. People had been waiting through the night for the park gates to open at dawn; nine hours before the mass was due to begin.
Pope Francis was driven through the throng of people in a modified “popemobile” wearing a transparent yellow poncho over his white papal cassock and regularly stopped to kiss children and bless religious statues.
In the Philippines it is thought that 1.2 million children live on the streets and 35.1 per cent of children were living in poverty in 2009, the last year such figures were collated, according to the Child Protection Network Foundation.
The theme of compassion for the poor was central to the Pope’s visit and he attacked the “scandalous social inequalities” in the Philippines.
The Catholic Church has grappled with a number of scandals in recent years, including the abuse of children by priests. Pope Francis is attempting to move on from this by modernising the church and acting in a more conciliatory manner than his predecessors.
Additional reporting ReutersReuse content